” A rocket won’t fly unless somebody lights the fuse. ” ~ Homer Hickam, author of The Rocket Boys.
“Well, how do you think the year went for you Hope?” I asked hesitently as I drove our old blue minivan down the neighborhood street.
“I think I did good,” she replied in a soft, timid tone.
“But, do you think you improved under her style of teaching, did you like that she was tough on you?” I asked firmly, determined for an answer.
“Yes, but my teacher made me a better person,” Hope stated matter of factly.
Happy with her honest answer, I left her alone and kept driving.
I will tell you that Hope, my now nine year old daughter, persevered through the most rigorous school year of her educational existance (at least, from my point of view). Given two to three hours of homework every single night, she cried and became frustrated by the work often. My husband and I would argue, because she was crying, and we all almost came totally unglued. However, her teacher kept explaining that this amount of work was needed to get Hope on the road to success, so we, as a family, kept going.
I’m happy to mention that by the end of the year Hope made strong academic gains, and her organizational skills improved tremendously. Most of all, her scores on the end of the year standardized tests, skyrocketed from the year before, having exceeded in three content areas. (She failed two content areas by a small margin the year before and we were thinking of holding her back a grade). In the end, Hope appreciated her teacher, and now speaks of her often, never shedding a tear. The success in the end was worth the pain of the journey.
What kind of teacher did my daughter need? She needed a teacher who was well-organized, strict, and would push her to the limits. She needed someone to believe that she could master the concepts, and not let her slide. Hope’s teacher held her accountable, knowing that she could do it.
This reminds me of another story by a high achiever named Homer Hickam, the author of The Rocket Boys, which was later turned into the movie, October Sky. Homer grew up in a poor coal mining town in West Virginia. His teacher, Miss Riley inspired him to continue with rocketry, when most of his family thought it was a waste of time. Homer went on to be a NASA engineer, and this is a letter he wanted to pass on to all teachers who strive to make a difference.
In closing, as teachers, it’s important to research, and learn from others, but also, we must remember that for every child there is that one special teacher. Just being who we are as educators, bringing our best selves to the classroom, may be the key to unlocking greatness in every student.